Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Project DONE- Series 5. LeftEye Signatures

I learnt quite a lot from Series 3 and 4, mostly due to its accidental comparison. The stories   of both women show tenacious passion and love for what they do however, personal principles and mottos has been what has somewhat differentiated their accomplishments. Watch out for both ladies in 5 years, in fact, I would love to re-visit their activities in 5 years and see how things have unfolded for them. Moving on to Series 5, Project Done travelled to Ajah; arguably, an affluent area in Lagos close to Epe to hang out with Lady Painter, Mrs Jumoke Ogunnaike. Yes you read right, LADY PAINTER. Lefteye as she is fondly called is a wife; mother of two gorgeous kids, has an incomparable sense of humour and runs a painting outfit called Lefteye Signatures. 

When I was initially introduced to her, I was 
naïve to the fact that we went to the same University and indirectly hung out with the same cluster of friends. For me, this story is very empowering and more visible to my often reiterated opinion about University. Despite lost debates, i have always maintained that university is not all about books! It’s a place I analyse as 30% books, 70% to meet people and create alliances to take over the world! Jumoke is done with university and has already begun doing the latter. I had a wonderful time hanging out with her on the site as we discussed business; her interests and achievements and I happily share the story.

 “Nigeria is a one man for himself kind of country. This opinion is based on what I have seen and experienced. I have friends and cousins who are what they are today not because of this country or its government but personal discipline, hard work and mostly, generosity of their parents. If not for their parents’ consistent assistance and generosity, they would be nowhere at all. They wouldn’t be able to afford anything! The government has made no concrete efforts whatsoever to prioritise citizens in anyway. Instead, they continuously demand and procure priority. So, what happens to those who have incapacitated parents? Those who do not have fruitful parents? Who caters to them? I as an example am where I am today not because of government’s concern or assistance whatsoever. I have struggled and excelled to be where I am today. For my children, I would continue doing the same so as to deliver the best kind of life for them”- Mrs Jumoke Ogunnaike aka Lefteye.

Q. Okay Madam Leftye, tell me a little about you?

A. (Laughs) You know a lot already jooor. (Laughs again) Well, am Olajumoke Ogunnaike nee Alabi.  Am married to Olusoji Ogunnaike and we’ve been married for two years now. We have two beautiful kids, am also the brain behind Lefteye Signatures and a real lover of art.

Q. You looking stunning for a woman who’s had two kids…

A. Tsyank you, Tsyank you…(Laughs) 

Q. What is it you guys do over at Lefteye Signatures and when did it start?

 A. We paint and beautify walls; general painting but mostly wall artistry. I really can’t remember what year, but I was in the university when I started and being doing this now for close to 7 years.

 Q. So you have been running LeftEye Signatures profitably now for seven years?

A. No, not exactly. I had been making a little bit of money from it helter-skelter but when I started I was into other things and it wasn’t consistent. It was just a passion thing. I just loved the idea that it was something quite different from what a lot of people around me were doing. Everyone was into fashion, every one was into make-up and because I roll with creative minds a lot, I just wanted to stand out. I just wanted to be different.  So the love for wall painting grew because it was different to my gender and still had a lot to do with art. Lefteye Signatures took off profitably about 4 years ago.

Q. So where did all the fancy, knowledge or inspiration come from?

A. I love art but wanted to stand out in doing something with it. I was at the time really  into make-up and fashion and was making good money from it, but wall artistry also caught my attention and I just thought I wouldn’t mind learning. Really not like for a business but just something more like a hobby or skill. I wouldn’t  say I got formal training per say, but I learnt a lot  from a friend- Tosin Okpaleye. I once saw pictures of his works and thought it quite different from the regular stuff one sees all the time. He did his paintings with so much detail and finesse and that’s when my interest took in. He still is a painter; in fact he is someone I refer to as my Oga any day.  He took me along often when handling projects and I learnt so much on the job working with him. He did loads of wall artistry and it had so much to do so much with a creative and artistic mindset.

Q. Tell me about the times you were doing make-up and fashion.

A. I had just finished from fashion school and had always wanted to be a big time fashiondesigner. I had dreams of going abroad like Milan or Paris to study fashion properly for like three or four years. As far as I can remember, it had always been a life long dream since I was conceived (laughs). Even my mum used to call me yeye oge, which in English means a lady of elegance, poise and beauty because I was always meticulous about my dressings and looks and often won best dressed female in different environments. Be it in school, social gatherings etc…I had a strong thing for fashion and still think maybe later on in life I might do something again in that line. But at the time, I was into fashion big time and making good money from it. I styled and did makeover for loads of people and shows. I styled for Celebrity Takes Two and clothed Mr Nigeria and his Partner in….either 2007 or 2008, can’t remember the year now.

Q. So where did it all transgress into Painting and Wall Artistry.

A. Painting and Wall artistry came like play play oooo upon seeing my friend’s work. Truly, when I saw his pictures, I just wanted to learn it because I loved art and was good at drawings. Maybe someday, personally paint my house, the bedrooms and stuff. I never really was interested for profit. Small small, it got tuned up the more as I struggled to carve a niche for myself. I was painting at the time as a hobby and was doing makeover and fashion for profit. My motivation was basically driven from the desire to stand out and dare to do something different. The fact that am a woman threatening to do or doing a man’s job was sure going to tickle people’s fancy. A lot would be anxious in seeing what I can deliver and if I come correct even more than expected, I have set a trend and pioneered something other ladies would want to follow suit. This was the motivation and inspiration. This boosted my anxiety and gave me much confidence in self-discovery. The first thing people go on when they meet me is –“you what for a living? You paint walls? A lady, you, painter? Have never heard that before”. (Laughs) It appeals to people’s attention, more so why you are here today and to carve such niche as always been my intention.

Q. I get it…it is indeed of a creative mind. So you do both indoor and outdoor painting?

A. We do indoor painting mostly but I take rare exceptions to do outdoor also from close clients. I paint for schools, offices, stores, houses, religious centres etc. Anything of interior walls we paint. Often times, people have asked if am an interior decorator but I say am not, am a wall painter. I create a specified ambience in a room through the colours I blend on its walls. With some clients, because of what I do, they further allow me decorate curtains or draft a scenario for their interior décor but only based on requests. I rather prefer we stick to walls. 

Q. Do you see LeftEye signatures branching out into Interior Décor also?

A. Maybe, but for now not at all. We are sticking to wall painting.

Q. Is Lefteye Signatures only Jumoke Ogunnaike or you got people you work with?

A. I have staff that work for me. I have four full time employees. I have two artists and two painters. I actually have access to more painters but I outsource them depending on the size of projects we get and they are guaranteed to show up anytime. However, every project we get, am on site with my painters and artists. We all work together and am biased about them completing jobs without my presence.  

Q. Why is that? Don’t you see them capable enough?

A. It’s really not that. I guess it’s just the love for what I do. We all challenge each other often with our work and am excited before anything when we get a project and always want to be a part of every single one.

Q. Tell me a bit about your staff, have you seen lives transformed since being with Lefteye Signatures?

A. Hmmmmm. (Breathes deep). When I parted ways with Tosin Okpaleye and started doing jobs solely, the first thing I changed about those who came to work for me was personality and appearance. When they all started, they used to look shabbily dressed, nonchalant and lacked confidence. They didn’t hold the job’s image esteem. They related to it like every average painter job. I noticed this and foresaw the damage it could have on my business and immediately changed their conception. I had to repeatedly instil in them an orientation of self-confidence, inclusiveness in society and an understanding that appearance goes a long way in business. Now on and off the job, they dress more professional and show a lot more self-confidence. They don’t go unnecessarily gisting with electricians or plumbers, neither do they show arrogance or pride while working together with them on a site. Just as I carved a niche for myself in art and creativity through wall artistry and painting, they have also carved a niche for themselves and appear far more than average painters. Another thing has been their level of responsibility. Through occasional interactions, I have seen them grow more mindful about their lives and that of their families. They have also given testimonies of how they are more respected at home. The fact that they have began earning wages and contribute to the general livelihood of their families, numerous times through personal needs, they have illustrated how family discussions they never were invited into now call their attention. They are more respected at home and this makes them even more focused on the job. One of my painters who always complained of his elder sister’s unnecessary nagging and scolding said he was amazed to how its been reduced while working with me. He hardly wants to go home when we finish on site if it’s before 5pm because he is seen more respected leaving home early in the morning and returning late at night. Another thing I have noticed in all this is that the guys I work with are super cool people. They give me so much strength when we do three or more jobs and clients don’t  pay up on time. I get delayed so long I sometimes lack motivation and get frustrated out of need to pay my staff but they careless about it. They do not disturb me or are down my throat; they understand so easily and even motivate me more showing up earlier than myself on the next job.  They keep me going. This appeals to my emotion and I never want to let them down. They are expressive in gratitude by identifying with the fact that it’s not always about money but the value being added to their lives. This makes our interactions grow much stronger and creates an inseparable bond. Every evening before they leave for home, they come to me with words of gratitude. It’s humbling and a blessing to be part of such transformation.

Q. This is empowering. I feel blessed hearing such testimony and I thank you for the opportunity and orientation you’ve given this people. People like you make society evolve. You truly ought to be continuously appreciated and celebrated. Am so humbled by this testimony….what have been your challenges so far on the job?

A. Thanks. When I first started out, it was tough. I had just sold my car and even had to go to sites while pregnant. It wasn’t advisable and my husband used to complain bitterly. It was a major challenge. In fact, it didn’t motivate me into trying to get more jobs because I had to temporarily move up and down with Nigeria’s poor public transport system, which to me is expensive and stressful. But as time went on and I got another car, things eased off gradually. Also, naturally, due to needs of the kids, jobs get slowed down once in a while. I don’t get to work for months but this same husband comes in as my biggest fan and supporter and pushes me to continue doing what I love. He always encourages me. He understands my passion and love for art. In fact, the first gift I ever got from him was a Painting manual. He also helped so much in my decision to actually become a painter; he knew I was a fashion designer and a makeover artist and guided me through that decision-making phase. As regards challenges with rates and clients, it’s always back and forth. When it comes to painting jobs for a project that’s when they start complaining there’s no more money. It’s understandable a lot of money would have been spent on construction, building or renovation but they tend to communicate with one as if my job is a luxury and not a necessity. They keep saying there is no money because the painter is always the last to come in. Painting is more than just applying colours on a wall. It’s about creating an ambience needful of reception that either reflect one’s personality or promote one’s business. It further promotes patronage for a business or guarantees a pleasurable and soothing ambience of relaxation for personal reasons. It’s more than just applying colours on a wall and I consistently and tirelessly have to explain, influence and persuade clients when it comes to their budgets or rates.

Q. Tell me some clients you have worked with and how have you been able to keep your consistency of expertise?

A. It has a lot to do with creativity, self-tutoring and training. Personally, am always searching to learn new things everyday. I experiment with colours and do so much research. Also, I belong to the Dulux Decorators Club and it has helped very much. We have exhibitions often and stakeholders from building and construction, housing and development and other interested sectors join us in interactions. We get to share so many ideas with each other. For my clientele, have done so many jobs. For business, pleasure and pain. (Laughs) Indulge Beauty Spa and Salon, they located in Abeokuta, Celine Star and Travels, they in Lagos, LolaVita Hair and Beauty Shop in Lagos also, The Peak Talent Show in Lagos too, Audio Visual First, a media company in Lagos; the list is endless.

Q. Do you need very expensive products to get a very good job?

A. No I don’t. Through consistent research and creativity I have managed to work with a mixture of certain products and get fantastic finishes and results. It’s not until I use the most expensive products would my job be credible. Yes, expensive products guarantee good results but my ingenuity has managed to give me an extra edge. That’s why I never turn down any job I get. I have standard rates for service but I mostly work with clients based on their budget.

Q. So you mean you never turn down job?

A. Yes. I hardly do because I work with the clients’ budget. I have service rates based on what exactly clients have to offer.

Q. Do you have a train of particular products you use?

A. I use different kind of products. I have urged myself on through research and creativity to achieve certain results of quality with different products. I use all kinds and types of paint; I use President, Crown, Soulvenir, Dulux, Polo by Ralph Lauren, Prestige, Fine Coat, Benjamin Mole and so many others. And to these products, there are different types of finishes- emulsion, silk, mat, chin etc.

Q. In sustaining Lefteye Signatures, has there been a strategy?

A. Maybe but asides all, it's been God. God has helped me a great deal to overcome many things. If you’ve noticed, am a very playful person. (Laughs) When am working also, it’s somewhat the same. I have fun because I love what I do and it’s a hobby; however, this for some people might be disastrous but with me it has even been my strength. I relate with staff amore easily through this and persuade clients more easily. My staff and I talk a lot asides work and when on the job we also have the time of our lives. We gist about new ideas, challenge ourselves at work and just have a good time while painting. It’s much fun. This I think has been the recipe in consistency with my staff. As regards getting jobs, referrals have always worked for us. Since I started Left Eye Signatures, I have not had to rigorously pursue or budget for adverts. A large percentage of our jobs have come through referrals. As a matter of fact all our jobs have come through referrals. (Laughs again).

Q. So if someone wants to begin doing what you do, what do they need? 

A. I have had people ask me the same question and enquire if I can tutor them, but I don’t just train anybody. Why? You can’t teach art. It is in built. You can only help nurture it out. You have to first identify you have an unparalleled artistic flair. One must be certain they are artistic and creative; if you are, the world is yours. Second is passion. You must have passion for the job because passion is what delivers the creative part of you while its being taught. Your volume and amount of creativity ends up guaranteeing more and more self-confidence and endless job referrals. Lastly, you have to be focused. You would hit challenges but you have to overcome them. Am open to embrace as many people interested to learn but I need artistic, passionate, focused and hardworking people. What I do is a man’s job and I need hardworking people to work with. Also, stylish people are welcome because what I do has a lot to do with colours and creativity.

Q. Hmmmm. Am so glad you invited me over to this site. Have had an amazing time hanging out with you. It’s been so much fun and alongside very educating. What more could I ask for in an hour. Lastly, what’s your vision and dreams for Lefteye Signatures?

A. For me, I want to be the best lady painter and probably the best painter in the world! For the brand, I would like our work to be promoted internationally and globally. We want to stand out in arts and creativity, change the way people see painters or perceive painting generally and hopefully motivate schools into inculcating wall artistry and painting in their curriculums by understanding the prospects and profits involved.

Rounding off Lefteye’s story comes very easy to me. If only I could turn tangible the abstract phenomena she engages Lefteye Signatures with, brand and package it judiciously not for sale, but for society's understanding of the need to adopt it as a code for societal transformation, under-development even if cursed on us would have no choice but to relocate its demons elsewhere. The excerpt from Lefteye I wrote after my introduction to this series emanates from a question I asked her during our chat - could she give any indicator to hope for Nigeria? Her answer at the first glance depicts her as someone realistic and cynic; but truly, behind its shades, she is unselfish as selfless could be. For Mrs Ogunnaike, Nigeria is her two kids and their only sensible hope is her and her husband; but amidst this, she continues to play the role of the change she seeks and longs to see even as she crucifies government. 

This Nigeria work is for us; yes us! The people in community, not government has falsely preached. The transformation we all seek begins within our individual families, further on to our communities and to the larger society. We in actual fact are government. Jumoke lives her life everyday through Lefteye Signatures, responding to the rhetorical questions she asks in the excerpt. She has given those who have (if you don’t mind my being blunt) incapacitated parents, a chance to understand VALUE, further nurture individual skill sets and still make profits from such journey. She has to a large extent shouldered the responsibilities of parents, community leaders, religious leaders and government by adequately equipping citizens and emphasizing the change she wants to see. This selfless act is very promising, enables the genesis of a developing nation and can be considered hope for Nigeria. The different clusters of informal sector small-scale business owners can end up being the burgeoning middle class and catalysts for development in Nigeria. When Jumoke answered the question of hope for Nigeria, I don’t think she truly focused on expressing the power of what she was involved in, but was instead overcome by the desire to stress her bitterness cynically. It’s quite understandable. I hope when she reads this, she would get a clearer picture of the power she has and be more motivated. Without doubt I induct her as a citizen of DraggNation. Congrats yeye oge!!! Lefteye is doing an amazing job. If you have a painting job for your home, place of work, religious centre or whatsoever, please feel obligated to support Lefteye Signatures. They truly doing an amazing job!!!

Contact Name: Mrs Jumoke Ogunnaike aka Lefteye. 

Telephone Number: 08056202838, 08094406541

Jide Alara.

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  1. Ride on sis... Wooohooo.. So proud of you.. Wish I had your spirit... My brother couldn't make a better choice.. :D

  2. Wow a female painter?! This is a very wonderful story, i have not heard or seen any female painter in Nigeria, this is definatley a first. Well done Lefteye, am very proud you broke into that world. More grease to ur elbow.
    Well done Jide, for this wonderful story.

  3. SOLMID-Royalty12 July 2012 at 07:30

    Wooooww see talent ooo, GOD has indeed bless those hands of yours, its all about creativity, u paint on walls and I paint on face, lol so we in this together. I'm impressed. GOD Bless Lefteye Signatures

  4. Nice one babes! it can only get better...

  5. Thumbs up!!! Keep up the good work! Very proud of you.

  6. Your hands are truly blessed because Bible says everything you lay your hands to shall prosper, I can see a manifestation of that in your life.
    More grease to your elbow.


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